Senior Spotlight: Tinsae Lopez | Rainier Valley Leadership Academy, Seattle

Jun 28, 2024 | Student Spotlights

Tinsae Lopez is the valedictorian of Rainier Valley Leadership Academy’s Class of 2024. Graduation Day will commemorate the end of Tinsae’s time in high school on a high note, having been honored by his peers and community. As valedictorian Tinsae will deliver a speech to his classmates and their families that will recognize the achievements they have earned together. At the same time, Tinsae is uniquely grounded and motivated by the power of perspective, levelly observing that,

“…everyone’s life is as complex as yours and you cannot shut people down because you don’t understand their perspective and viewpoints. You gain so much more by opening up your heart and mind and attempting to understand.”

Tinsae Lopez

While the runway in front of Tinsae is ready for him to take flight, he remembers when it wasn’t as clear. The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge where looking back, he observes that he drifted from his classes and was unfocused on school. But as quarantine was ending, Tinsae realized, “I need to get right. I’m about to go back to school and need to work on myself more. And I mean all aspects – physical, mental, spiritual and all toward trying to be the best person I can be.”

Tinsae has remained focused and self-aware about who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to his future – himself.

“I’m big on being a role model to young ones and students my age and maybe even people who are older, looking to me to motivate them to do better. The vision that people have for me is one I have for myself – I am living up to other’s expectations because I have high expectations.”

Today, Tinsae has already earned college credits toward his 4-year degree supporting his career plan toward accounting as he works to build and sustain momentum toward his future. Tinsae credits the community at RVLA for helping to hone his beliefs on respecting the experiences and attitudes of others.

“It’s a smaller school and that’s a big part. I’m in Running Start, and I go to random teacher’s classrooms and pick their brain. I like going around the school and interacting with other people. I appreciate that it is smaller and there are better connections. I’m more than just a number that no one really cares about. Here, it is easier to have one-on-one conversations with students and open up on both sides and have a more comfortable experience.”

Opportunities at RVLA weren’t all created on campus. Tinsae absorbed information from the surrounding community including business owners, authors and career experts in construction and trades, among others. As part of a Liberated Village program, Tinsae’s class created and launched a website that performs as a centralized service hub for different social services.

“We built it to be very user friendly and bring awareness to resources because there is a lot of help out there, but less awareness of how to get it. Now people can come to one spot and choose the resource based on their situation and needs.”  

Exposure to the wisdom and experiences of others is a recurrent them for Tinsae, further strengthening his openness to the people around him. “I came to this idea of perspectives because I’m open minded to other points of views. I want to take knowledge in and add it into my own arsenal.” In fact, Tinsae’s “arsenal” is substantial. He is passionate about fitness and tutoring and music. Still, he repeatedly returns to awareness of self and of those around him.

“Another part of perspective lies in your conscious about yourself. For example, how you view your situation. If there are two people going through the same predicament, and one says, ‘my life is over and I can do nothing’ and another looks at it as a chance to grow, that alone dictates how the outcome is going to be.”

In describing whether or not he had a personal hero, Tinsae reiterated how he is observing and listening from everyone around him. “I have a collective…I take a little for everyone. If this person has this good quality that I admire than I’ll learn from that and use it in my own way to add to my experience.”

Like many students who endured the strange, chaotic environment of school during a pandemic, Tinsae is thoughtful about the importance of working to stay connected, rather than be driven apart.

Let’s say there is a situation where two people are in an altercation or disagreement. There isn’t necessarily a wrong side but another point of view. Same with friends, there would be a barrier but once we talk about it, it’s really just a misunderstanding. It’s us viewing the same situations in two different lights, two different viewpoints. All these things prove to me how important perspective is and how important it is to keep note of it. It’s a factor.”

Tinsae was pressed to offer advice for families with students in high school and his empathy for others shined through.

“One thing I would say is support your kids’ needs as individuals. Maybe someone gets an A and it’s nothing, but you have to appreciate all the little achievements more. I guess to build the confidence, instead of saying ‘you should be doing this and that,’ instead give a compliment or whatever kind of constructive criticism. Not nitpicking about doing everything right but saying what they did right and what they could do better. Stay conscious about your interactions with them and how your responses to achievements and shortcomings they have is very important.”